You Gotta have skills

How I try to keep up

I sometimes look back few years, to when the internet was new, and think about how simple life felt. It seemed to move slower. We hadn’t really all connected to the rest of the world. Life was much simpler. These days the world changes and it changes quickly. It’s important to keep up, adapt. You gotta have skills.

Right kids. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

I got my first computer over 30 years ago. It had a green and black monochrome monitor. It had no such thing as a hard drive or RAM. You popped a cassette tape into a player and pressed play. You then typed “bload” and the command to start the program. What followed was a sound which later would be heard coming from your dial-up modem.

A very old computer
I can’t remember the computer I had but it was similar. Not the cassette deck on the left.

Fast forward a few years to a computer with (I forget the exact figures) a 20mb hard drive, something like 1mb RAM. Windows 3.1 came on a handful of stiffy disks. My fellow nerd friends used to trade discs with games and software. (Disclaimer: We knew nothing of software piracy back then. That was how we thought you got software. Pirating software is bad kids)

An old stiffy disc
A stiffy disc found in an archeological dig

And we’re back…

There are times, in this ever changing, rapidly moving world, that I miss those simpler days.

Looking back to when I first started learning to code there was HTML and that was pretty much it. At the end of 1996 we got CSS that let us do all kinds of fancy styling. HTML and CSS have both evolved a lot since then.

An HTML5 logo
The logo for HTML5
A CSS3 logo
The logo for CSS3

Things like SEO or Social Media Management, never existed or were simple enough for a single developer.

It seems that every day a new web technology springs up. We’ve gone from always being current to constantly playing catch up. Where once you could learn a skill or 2 and carry on with them for years, now you either keep learning or you won’t last long.

It’s just too much

One thing that’s common with all techies is that we become tech support for family and friends. When the internet goes down we perform the magic that’s usually just a reboot. We do things quickly on the screen that we’ve done a millions times amaze people. Here’s our secret. We’ve done it all so much it’s muscle memory.

An overwhelmed woman
The world of technology can be overwhelming

I also do the odd bit of tech support when I’m not building and maintaining websites. People have all of this modern technology from internet to phones to laptops. Most of them barely leverage what they can do and that’s ok. We use things as we need them.

I think about how much and how quickly the world changes. People haven’t even started using all the features on their phones before a new version is out. We’re all playing catch up.We’re all overwhelmed.

Keeping up (or trying to)

There’s simply no way to keep up with everything or to know everything. There’s too much. The best we can hope for is to keep learning, keep improving your skills.

So how do I attempt to keep up?
As a techy in my 40s the catch up is real. Until a couple of years ago I wasn’t actively designing sites. Coming back into the career path, I had to catch up on a lot of stuff really quickly. I didn’t have a lot of time so I learned what I needed and built onto that.

Now I’m always trying to improve knowledge and skills. Learning new soft skills and upskilling.

A man behind some books
Trying to keep up.

A day in the life

Most days I’m up between 5 and 6. Not by choice, I have a cat. Though now my internal clock is pretty much trained. I have 4 rules I try to do every morning. Some days I’m less successful but that’s fine. They seem easy but they’re not. I try to keep my morning for learning.

  1. Don’t look at emails or social media first thing
  2. Meditate
  3. Try to think of at least 1 thing I’m grateful for
  4. Set an intention for the day

The rest of my morning really depends on workload.

Reading Time

Articles usually only take a few minutes so then I open up a book and read a chapter, maybe 2. This is the time I read some sort improvement book. Anything from design, development, business. Really anything that I can use to improve skills.

A library with rows of books
Time to read

Lunchtime podcasts

By now it’s usually time for lunch so I find an interesting podcast and listen while I eat lunch. I usually listen to an episode from a show on things related to web design. It might be design, development, social media, SEO, UI/UX. This again helps me stay current. I tend to follow the top rated podcasts so they’re always keeping me updated with trends and new developments.

A podcast microphone
Podcasts for lunch

Keep learning

I usually have at least 1 online course going so I do that first. My attention span for courses is usually less than an hour but that’s an hour of new knowledge a day. (Currently I’m doing the Responsive Bootcamp course at Scrimba. When I learnt to code I learnt enough to get going then patched new information in. This course is great to fill in gaps and learn new stuff. And the unique perspective of Kevin Powell has been invaluable.

A row of blocks with the word study spelt out.
Keep learning

Stay current

Then I sit down with my Kindle, a cup of coffee and some classical music. I open up an article I’ve pushed to my Kindle and I read through it, highlighting anything important. I follow a lot of blogs and newsletters. I always added them to snooze but that became a black hole. Once I pushed them to my Kindle I actually started reading them.This has probably been my best tool in keeping up.

A hand holding an Amazon Kindle
Catching up with articles on the Kindle

You’ve got mail

Only now do I check my email properly. I do a cursory check before I start my course in the morning for anything that can’t wait. The rest can wait until now. Time to reply to emails that weren’t urgent. Push new articles to the Kindle for later. Attempt to clear my huge3 backlog of mail. I am terrible at email management.

Time for work

I spend the rest of the afternoon and evening on current projects. If I’m not very busy I’ll spend some time on my own site making improvements and doing updates. I like to use my mornings for learning and improvement and then use the rest of the day for work. My brain seems to work better that way.

Let’s get to work (nope, that’s not me)

Active Breaks

I try to spend a bit of time every afternoon on what I like to call “Active Breaks”. I do things I enjoy that relax me but they’re still active as opposed to just relaxing.

At the moment I’m using Duolingo to learn Spanish and Latin. I chose Spanish because I enjoy it and Latin because I’ve always wanted to. I find Latin easier than Spanish. I might never actually use them but it’s fun and has some great benefits.

I’m also learning chess (again). I used to play as a kid but as time goes by I’m all but forgotten. So I spend a bit of time going through a few chess lessons.

Weak Points

I have a few things I’m weak on. Regular blog posts and social media are 2 of them. I’m working on it.

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